Bob Owens

The saddest truth in politics is that people get the leaders they deserve

PEO Soldier flunks all competing rifles, faces protests… and misses the big picture

Written By: Bob - Jun• 21•13
U.S. Army PEO Soldier program looks for new excuses to cling to 50+ year-old rifle/ammo combination.

U.S. Army PEO Soldier program looks for new excuses to cling to dated rifle/ammo combo.

I simply shock my head when the Army’s PEO Soldier program sank all eight Individual Carbine entrants. I suspect many (or more likely, all) of the submitted rifles were a dramatic improvement over the existing M4 carbine, even those that were merely a piston upgrade on a M4 lower.

It now looks like the Army faces possible protests over how they conducted the tests (the exact nature of the protests is still a bit murky), which also switched from M855 ammo to M855A1 “Enhanced Performance” ammo.

The thing is, no matter how great the M4’s replacement is, it will not be appreciably more effective downrange without switching to a larger cartridge. The 6×45, 6.5 Grendel, and 6.8 SPC are all dramatic improvements over the 5.56 NATO, and there are doubtlessly other candidates to chose from. While the military insists on sticking with a .22-caliber cartridge they simply aren’t going to find a significant increased in battlefield effectiveness on human targets, no matter what carbine they field. I personally think the 6.5 Grendel offers the best on-paper performance gains—its better ballistic coefficients mean better long range performance than the 5.56 NATO, 6×45, 6.8 SPC, and 7.62 NATO—but there are no doubt other factors I haven’t considered that the Army’s experts will (like how offers the best quid pro quo and untraceable corruption options).

The U.S. military has a long history of providing our soldiers with substandard small arms, with the M1 Garand being the most notable exception to that history. For once in my lifetime, I’d like to see those defending our freedom have the best rifle and cartridge that the arsenal of freedom can develop.

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  1. Real Deal says:

    Not to be too pesky but you might want to proof this one again Bob.

    • Bob says:

      Yeah. I have a “don’t blog before coffee” rule. I just don’t follow it very often.

  2. Chris says:

    I could see a move to the .300 AAC. All you need is a new barrel and the rest of the M4 platform doesn’t need updated. Very similar to the 7.62×39 at supersonic and using subsonic with supressors would be great for when you need a little less noise.

    It’s funny though the the M4 as is today would fail the test. They were looking for something much better and nothing in 5.56 met their criteria including the current M4.

    • melensdad says:

      Problem with the 300 AAC Blackout is that it is NOT suitable for engaging targets at longer ranges. Seems like the complaints about the 5.56 are often that it can’t be used at long enough distances to defend positions. The 300 Blackout would suffer from the same issue. The 6.5 Grendel suffers from the ammo capacity issue, 27 rounds per magazine instead of 30. But it gains substantially in terminal energy and range.

  3. Tucker says:

    But, hey, guys. Wait just a minute. Didn’t that greasy stinking Pat Tillman death cover up rat McChrystal get up on national TV right after the Sandy Hook black op and with the brown stains still visible on his nose, solemnly swear to the American public that the .223 caliber cartridge was one of the deadliest and most destructive bullets ever invented, and because of that, the average civilian in America should be prohibited from owning any AR sporting rifles in that caliber?

    • Chris Watson says:

      Yes, he did – and be careful about criticizing him: you, too, could wind up have an ‘accidental’ death.

  4. Comrade X says:

    My only problem with the 7.62×51 is carrying the ammo(maybe the 6.8 or others are a lot better, don’t know), 5.56 may not be as effective long range (inside 500 meters 5.56 does sting a little you know!) but you sure can carry a bunch more.

    So when you run out of ammo because you couldn’t carry anymore, you could be still slinging that 5.56, everyone who wants to gets shot by a 5.56 please raise their hands, thought so; no takers!

    I own both the scar light & heavy, there is a big difference of staying on target between the 5.56 & 7.62×51, in a situation where you need more on target quickly or someone is giving me cover by keeping the bad guys heads down while I am flanking I would have no problem with them throwing 5.56 out in a good amount & on target but there are situations for sure where the 7.62×51 is my favorite too, its all about the situation and needs, it’s good to have choices. The platforms that will allow changing out to either or all IMHO should be the future.

    Death before slavery!

    • Man-Bear-Pig says:

      I agree.

      In addition to the problem of weight, you also have a problem with magazine capacity when you move from a .20 cal round to a .30 cal round. Who is willing to give up a 30 round magazine for a 20 rounder?

      While there is no doubt that 7.62 is a great round for the open terrain and long distances experienced in Iraq and Afghanistan — what about our next war?

      5.56 is a great, flat trajectory round that works, and allows our troops to carry more ammo.

      Do we need a replacement for the M16?


      If anything the military should go back to issuing a rifle with a 20″ barrel, which would improve muzzle velocity and everything that comes with it. (i.e. accuracy and distance)

  5. thesouthwasrght says:

    IMO the 6.5 Grendel is about as perfect a round as will ever be crammed into an AR-15 platform. Too bad Alexander Arms isn’t nearly so. Back before Sandy Hook, by about 10 days, I ordered an 18″ upper, 10 25 Rd mags, 1 4 rounder and somewhere in the vicinity of 1200 rounds. Have yet to seei hide nor hair of any of it. The worst part is I built a stud lower that I have close to a grand in for this upper that I doubt I will ever see. So in closing this rant, beware of Bill Alexander’s outfit.

    • Bob says:

      I’m saddened to hear that. I know a lot of supply dried up after Sandy Hook, but it seems to be freeing up, so hopefully you’ll get your upper and mags soon.

      The Alexander Arms rifles I’ve fired (Sniper variant, and I think the Overwatch) are incredibly accurate.

      • melensdad says:

        My only experiences with Alexander Arms have been very positive. I had an Overwatch upper and it was a tack driver, it shipped quickly with no issues. I bought a couple of their lowers and they shipped quickly, as did some ammo that I purchased from them. Granted all of that was over the past couple years, not during any panic period.

  6. louielouie says:

    The U.S. military has a long history of providing our soldiers with substandard small arms,

    the astronaut was asked what was on his mind as the chamber lost pressure and the hatch was opening. the astronaut responded that he was about to step out into the most hostile environment known to man, in a suit built by the lowest bidder.

    you shook your head bob, you didn’t get shocked.

    • Real Deal says:

      The movie Armageddon wasn’t very good but it had a great quote.

      “You know we’re sitting on four million pounds of fuel, one nuclear weapon and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder. Makes you feel good, doesn’t it?”
      ~ Rockhound (Steve Buschemi)

  7. JPO says:

    Just one quibble – the M1 Garand is not an exception; rather it proves the point.

    As Michael Z. Williamson has noted, much to fans of the Garands chagrin, “Then the Army took a crap in it. I can’t blame Garand for this, because the Army crapped in almost every weapon it got given in the 20th Century, then complained about the taste.”

    The alteration of the design by the ARMY to utilize an En-Block clip as opposed to the stripper clip feeding it was originally designed to utilize means that the weapon cannot be ‘topped off’, all reloads must be in clips (cannot reload from loose rounds), ejection of the clip on empty effectively discards your method of reloading if you are on the move, etc.

    Alteration of the design from it’s intended cartridge reduced total capacity by 2 rounds. The increased stress on the op rod necessitated downloading of the 30-06 cartridges anyway (negating some of the presumed savings of utilizing an in-stock caliber).–almost-as-good-as-a-real-rifle

    • Matt R. says:

      Yeah, I’d be careful about wholesale buying into the conclusions in that article. People who grow up with newer technology tend to think older tech is backwards when the truth is that they really don’t understand it. A small unit with malfunctioning rifles is not a sufficient base to declare millions of properly functioning rifles junk and “almost as good as a real rifle”. Millions of G.I.s, competitors, and civilian shooters have no problem getting it to function properly.

      • JPO says:

        The POINT is that the Army’s decision making process, depreciated the over all quality and utility of the design.

        The article happened to be convenient and available to illustrate that point.

        Yes, younger shooters expect far more performance than many older designs can actually provide. And the M1 was was adequate, certainly. But the army still took Garands design and mucked it about unnecessarily, altering its feeding method, and complicating what should have been (and were for other weapons in inventory) simple procedures.

        The ultimate thrust I am making is that the Garand is an example of the Army screwing it up too (regardless of the fondness many have for the rifle as issued). Perhaps it was not as screwed up as badly as other weapons, but the ‘executive meddling’ is evident and honestly corrupted an excellent design in ways that make no sense.

        Regardless of historical context, you cannot defend the baffling choice of an enblock clip. The clip was one of several complaints made by the marine corps in favoring the Johnson rifle during Trials, if my memory serves.

        Consider it a ”pattern of abuse” from the Army when it comes to weapons, and just accept that the beloved Garand SHOULD have been better than it was and would have if the Army hadn’t touched the plans with an eye to “improve”.

        The fact that you fixate on the Malfunctions experienced in Williamsons article, and not on the avoidable, and Army initiated design deficiencies that are part and parcel of the rifle as it existed in service, indicates that you may have a rose tinted view of the M1 as a platform. Or that you missed his point that despite peoples fanboy view of the tool, it is flawed; and instead fixeted on his trash talk – which was intended to rile fanbois, rather than as a summation of the platform.

      • Matt R. says:

        Apparently this reply system only allows replies to a certain depth, so this reply is to JPO (24 June, 01:08) below:

        I have absolutely no interest in how the Garand came to it’s “as issued” form. None. Any delving into that is a case of coulda, shoulda, woulda. If you want to play that game please feel free. What it is is what we have to work with. You however quoted an article titled “The Garand: Almost As Good As A Real Rifle”. That flawed article is about way more than the Army’s missteps in it’s acquisition process. Without mentioning the areas in the article that you’re referencing you take ownership to all points in the article.

        As far as the “trash talk” designed to rile people, sorry that I didn’t catch that. I feel that trash talk is a sign of a weak mind and don’t do that either.

        To the matter at hand, while I do own a Garand I wouldn’t currently consider it either my first line or possibly second choice as my defensive “go to” weapon. It is however very capable as a “real weapon” and anyone with just a bit of skill would not find themselves wanting if that’s all they had available. It is a rugged, dependable, accurate, and powerful firearm. Anyone who claims that it is “Almost As Good As A Real Rifle” is either unfamiliar with it or inept in it’s use.


  8. OldmanRick says:

    I trained with the M14 and considered it an excellent battle weapon back in the day. The M16, not so much.

    • Brad says:

      The M-14 rifle is certainly a superior weapon to the original M-16al rifle in semi-automatic fire mode. But of course the military converted to the M-16a1 because of it’s superiority in automatic fire mode.

      The irony today is that current rifle doctrine emphasizes aimed single shot fire instead of bursts of automatic fire.

      In my opinion, a mix of calibers in the rifle squad would give a better result on the battlefield than any one caliber. A mix of larger caliber scope sighted semi-automatic rifles plus smaller caliber automatic weapons. Perhaps M-14 rifles and M-249 light machine-guns.

  9. johnnyreb says:

    IF the US has adopted the FN-FAL in 280 British so many years ago, would the rifle (or a variant) or cartridge still be in use?

    • SO2001 says:

      Yes it would the military has to be dragged kicking and screaming to use new tech. just look at the problems with the pasgt and it’s two point chin strap.

  10. Big Country says:

    Until the tech catches up (caseless and such like the H&K G-11) we’re not going to see a change in the ‘base’ cartridge for the US Military. The 5.56mm has become almost universal in it’s use by almost very single major country thats allied to us. The Brits with their POS Enfield, the Aussies and a BUNCH of others with the Steyr AUG, the Canadians with their versions of the M-4/16 variants as well as the Germans and the G-36… well, damned near every single one of them utilize the 5.56mm for the “care and feeding” of their toys. In order for the military to go over to another caliber, almost every single country in the NATO alliance would have to re-tool. And considering current world attitudes, we can’t even get the politicians to agree on the color of the sky, nevermind telling them we’re re-tooling the NATO standard caliber. I agree that a heavier round is needed (I speak from firsthand experience) but that being said, we’re stuck with the 5.56mm for the forseeable future until such time as some backroom mad scientist comes up with a man-portable functional Laser weapon out of Star Trek or as I stated, a caseless weapons system like the G-11. Just my two cents…

  11. chris says:

    Thanks4sharing. I shared on a linkedin group as well. Like to read your take on scopes as well. thanks again.

  12. Brad says:

    Two points

    First off the 5.56 mm cartridge is a particularly bad fit for the M-4 or similar carbine with a stubby 14.5 inch barrel. The 5.56 is much better with the original longer 20 inch barrel of an M-16. Yet at one point the US Army was going to go forward with an even stubbier 13 inch barrel M-8 carbine.

    Secondly, the rejection of spray and pray doctrine (ironically the core origin of M-16 adaption) and the embracing of quality glass sights and aimed fire training has done more to improve the effectiveness of riflemen than any caliber change could. This is probably the biggest reason for the odd US Army conservatism regarding changes to caliber and carbine platform.

  13. Sulaco says:

    I agree with BigCountry, the tech is just not there yet for the huge investment (and small payoff) needed to change calibers for nearly the entire world. The brass cased round in hi-vel configuration is about as good a current gun tech has, and minor changes to slightly bigger and maybe better overall rounds do not justify making the money available for the entire armed forces to change over to the same thing only slightly larger. Until there is a breakthrough in the tech and a reliable caseless or similar paradigm shift the M4 and 5.55 is here to stay. The irony as seen in SE Asia was in the original M16 with a slow barrel rate twist (1-9?) created an unstable but short range accurate round that caused nasty wounding at typical engagement ranges. Enter the (1-14 twist rate) of the “improved” M16 (again the Army mucking about) and the bullet became more stable and accurate at longer ranges but less effective. TANSTAAFL. I have carried the M4 or a variant for a lot of years and never felt under gunned, but I do now have a real CQB appreciation for the AK platform and the 7.62 round and that is what sits to hand should SHTF.

  14. cmblake6 says:

    7.62×40 Wilson. Change barrels. Period. No other alterations.

  15. cmblake6 says:

    Or better, something on the exact same line in 6.5.

  16. rumcrook says:

    I’m on the same page as sulaco. I carried the m-16 in the army, bought an ar when I got out and an ak. I like my colt ar but I have grown to love my ak. Anything under 100 feet like around my acreage and out buildings and I think I would rather reach for my ak platform. It doesn’t hurt that I put an absolutely rockin set of hardwood stocks from ironwood on it and stained them a beautiful cinnamon red with several coats of rubbed in true oil and shellac. If you have a nice ak that’s accurate I can’t recommend ironwood stocks enough to upgrade a trusted rifle

  17. Sulaco says:

    “Change barrels. Period. No other alterations.”

    No actually you are talking changing entire industries on a global scale and industrial bases including the design of the barrel, chambering and possible problems not to mention costs with the change on nearly 6 million rifles and for what really? Slightly better long range performance? When the 7.62×51 is in use and already in the field? If they are that far away go to the 50BMG. Dream on but keep it real world please no pol will go with that and I can’t blame them in this case alone…

  18. Critch says:

    I carried many variants of the M16 in my years in the military. I guess the Grendel would be a good switch,,but the cost would be prohibitive